National Geographic Adventure: Climbing the Bachar-Yerian, Yosemite National Park

Photograph by: Cody Tuttle

“I focus on staying calm and enjoy every move,” says climber Lonnie Kauk, seen here repeating the Bachar-Yerian route in California’s Yosemite National Park. “So many great climbers have done this route, so it's more like being a part of something so special.”

Kauk, who lives in the park, is the son of Yosemite climbing legend Ron Kauk. The younger Kauk was also mentored by the iconic John Bachar, whose commitment to pushing the free-solo style of climbing redefined what was possible without a rope (he eventually died in a free-solo fall in 2008).

“I love to honor the ones who came before and keep carrying on,” says Lonnie, who is repeating many of Bachar’s routes.

Getting the Shot

The window of opportunity for attempting the climb was considerably shortened due to unfavorably hot temperatures and smoke from a large forest fire nearby—the source of the haze over the lake in the background. Luckily, after a few days of waiting it out, conditions improved enough that the duo felt confident enough to go for it.

At the point where this photo was taken, the wall was at a full 90-degree angle, making it difficult for photographer Cody Tuttle to get the angle he wanted.

“If the wall had been overhanging, I would have been suspended in space, making it easier to show the perspective I was looking for of the valley," says Tuttle. "I used a big-wall swing and chest harness so I could lay down horizontally and kick off the wall to get the angle I wanted. Lonnie was staring down on his second chance to place protection, which makes this route so famous. It is incredibly run-out, and if he were to fall at this point, he was looking at an 80-plus-foot fall.”